Last Wednesday, downtown Ft. Worth was the scene of a protest against fossil fuels, and in particular hydraulic fracturing. A reporter for the Texas Tribune framed the event as “the latest sign of a backlash against drilling in Texas.”
But if it is a sign, it’s a microscopic one. The protest, organized by Rising Tide North America, drew only several dozen people. It is not only small in absolute terms, but relatively dwarfed by support for natural gas drilling in Louisiana and Texas as well as the overriding public appetite for energy that is, above all: Cheap. Now.
Local support in Louisiana for shale gas drilling is examined in an article on the Haynesville Shale. The presence of the shale field is often framed by residents as a “gift from God“:
BILL WILLIAMSON, a retired telephone factory worker, relaxes in a rocking chair on the porch of his farmhouse in Stonewall, a town in north-central De Soto Parish. The town sits 10,000 to 13,000 feet above a rich underground gas deposit known as the Haynesville Shale.
A gas rig operated by Encana, the Canadian gas giant, was busy drilling just beyond Mr. Williamson’s front yard.
“God made everything,” he says, reflecting on the rig. “He made the minerals in the ground and the trees on top of the ground, and he put them there for a purpose. It’s in our best interest to use the resources.”
Mr. Williamson and his wife, Nancy, a retired nurse, live on 34 acres of mostly grazing land. An air horn blows loudly at the nearby gas rig. But the Williamsons, who, like most of their neighbors, earn tidy incomes from gas drillers’ leasing their land, don’t seem to notice.
Even as the article notes that drilling in Pennsylvania generates more political resistance, probably due to cultural and socioeconomic differences with the South, Americans as a whole are united in their demand for cheap automotive gas. This demand for cheap energy legitimizes the development of marginal sources of energy, no matter the source, as existing reserves of less controversial fuel are depleted.
The American infatuation with the automobile has been assiduously cultivated for a century and our urban areas are now built around it. This infatuation, which has spread to India and China, seems to be the real rising tide – not the resistance to what fuels it.